Material: With an earthy feel and soulful vocals, Ventura-based Amber & Smoke (Amber Olive and Bill Rotella) delivers a pleasing musical conversation that ranges from old-school American folk and straight-up blues to lilting country. From the gorgeous harmonized riffs in “It’s Been Too Long” to the growling vocals of “Bad Girl Blues,” the aptly named Amber & Smoke achieves a surprisingly powerful and rewarding sound for an acoustic duo.
Musicianship: Olive and Rotella clearly enjoy playing off of each other’s varied musical skills. Olive packs powerhouse vocals, while Rotella delivers gentler rhythmic instrumental lines on which they build their sound. In “What I Feel For You,” Olive’s vocal teasing was set against Rotella’s ukulele, followed by solid guitar picking in the soon-to-be-released, “Good To Be Me.” In the second as yet unreleased original track, “Too Little Too Late,” we are brought a sound resembling Dire Straits guitar meets No Doubt ska vocals, with some funky strumming and a reggae bounce––solid, uplifting and engaging.
Performance: Personable and understated, Amber & Smoke adapted easily to an eclectic audience and conveyed an honest, appealing musical story. This duo interacted warmly with the crowd and carried bright vocal harmonies throughout the show. “She Don’t Know How to Love You” filled out the evening with an upbeat, country-gospel sound, and the “Jack in My Cup” finale was a crowd favorite, with its dive-bar sass and a strong Carrie Underwood flavor.
Summary: A dynamic pairing of experienced talent, Amber & Smoke marries punchy soulful vocals with Americana, blues and country instrumentals for a fun and open musical experience. Relatable lyrics blend with smooth, steady guitar sounds to envelop the listener in a comforting audio journey. Much like sitting around a bonfire at a cookout with friends, Amber & Smoke brings a welcoming presence to their performance, creating the perfect atmosphere for relaxation and enjoyment.